A lunch full of Thai food and good will
Papaya salad and other Thai delicacies with the right amount of chili were served at the Thai Ambassador’s Residence on June 18. Conversation was mostly in Thai, although half of the guests are Americans. However, this is not uncommon for a gathering full of Peace Corps volunteers and Americans who are good friends of Thailand.
On June 18, 2015, Ambassador Pisan Manawapat hosted a lunch in honor of Dr. Kevin Quigley and his family, his wife Susan Farherty and his daughter Fiona Quigley. Dr. Quigley recently returned to the U.S. to take up a position of President of Marlboro College in Vermont after spending several years working as Director of Peace Corps in Thailand.
Thailand is among the 140 countries that Peace Corps Volunteers have served in. The first group of Volunteers came to Thailand as early as 1962. Just last month, Geoffrey Longfellow, a former Peace Corps volunteer and now Project Manager of the Thailand Sustainable Development Foundation, visited Washington and shared with the Thai community here how his Foundation helps Thai people cope with the downsides of globalization through His Majesty the King’s philosophy called “Sustainable Development.”
Dr. Quigley’s Peace Corps family were present at the lunch. Keri Lowry, Regional Director for Asia and Brian Persse, Country Desk Officer for Thailand represented Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington. Rumpai Chalongsuk, Peace Corps Thailand’s Training Manager and J.M. Ascienzo who just finished his service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand also joined in to reflect the close relationship between Thais and Americans working together in friendship and development.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney posed with Dr. Quigley and his staff members during her visit to Peace Corps Thailand. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy, Bangkok)
To support people-to-people relations between Thailand and the U.S. through Peace Corps, Ambassador Kristie Kenney, known for her use of social media savvy to connect with Thais, and Kristina Law, Thailand Desk Officer at the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and the Pacific Affairs also attended the lunch. Ambassador Kenney was a strong supporter of Peace Corps’ work during her time as the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand. She also represented the U.S. Government at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Peace Corps Thailand at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2012, where Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn honored the occasion with congratulatory remarks.
Ambassador Pisan and his staff also learnt about American’s contribution to Thailand and her people from other friends of Thailand. Dr. Joyce White, Director of Ban Chiang Project at Penn Museum and Executive Director of Institute for Southeast Asian Archaeology told the party about her work on authentication of possible artifacts of Ban Chiang before these artifacts are sent to Thailand’s Fine Art Department, through the Embassy, for further analysis and authentication. Ban Chiang, a Sub-district in the Nong Han District of Udon Thani Province in northeast Thailand, is recognized by the UNESCO as the most important prehistoric settlement so far discovered in Southeast Asia.
Professor Mark Vlasic, a senior fellow and adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University, also son of a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand, shared his experiences on bringing back valuable artifacts to Southeast Asia. He was joined by his friend, Marion Abecassis, a Fulbright Fellow from Universite Pantheon-Assas, France.
Another true friend of Thailand joining the event was Dr. Courtland Robinson, Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Robinson has a wide range of experiences working with Thai universities and agencies on migration and health. He was a member of the Advisory Board of Mahidol Migration Center in Thailand from 2011 – 2014. He was also in the Expert Panel on Improving the Monitoring and Evaluation of Human Anti-Trafficking Programs, U.S. Government Accountability Office and National Academies of Science.
The Embassy is working with Dr. Robinson on anti-human trafficking projects which will take him to Thailand in August 2015.
Today, despite some ups and downs in the Thai – U.S. relationship – and there have certainly been many more ups than downs – it is because of such a reservoir of good will between the two peoples that has nurtured the relations between Thailand and the U.S. for more than 182 years.